Rosey the Riveter

Monday, September 16, 2013

Whipping the Garden into Shape

Now that the air is cooler in the morning, it's a delight to spend time out in the garden, which is suffering from some serious neglect.  This morning alone, I lugged out 4 lawn bags full of weeds from the pathways.

Once the weeds were tackled, I noticed immediately that the rosemary was desperately overgrown.  It tumbled over the raised bed into the walkway and I got the snippers out to give it a haircut.  This resulted in a massive pile of rosemary that I couldn't bring myself to just throw away.

Then I had an ah-ha moment and got a wire coat hanger and my florist wire.  What resulted was an herbal wreath that I now have hanging on my front door.  I did add a few snips of parsley, sage, and oregano and topped it all off with a raffia bow.  It may not be as beautiful as the Williams-Sonoma wreaths, but it didn't cost $50, either!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Isle of Wight Fair

Today was one of those gorgeous days you wish would last forever.  We were lucky enough to be able to spend the majority of it outdoors.  We went to a neighborhood yardsale in the morning and scored lots of treasures.  And then we decided to head to Windsor (about 45 minutes from here) to check out the Isle of Wight County Fair.  I'm glad we went, because the weather was perfect... but I doubt we'll go back again next year.

Parking was free, which was a nice perk.  But it was $8 per person to get in, even for the kids.  There was one tent full of handmade entries and I loved seeing all of the canned goods.

And then we went to the Heritage Tent, whose theme this year was bringing back family farms.  The girls got a kick out of these painted gourds.
 I was enchanted by the 'peanut pumpkins' which I'd never seen before.
 Abby loved the 'goosebump pumpkin' which was also new to me!
 Then we went to the 4-H tent and swooned over all the chickens.  A friend of mine thought my last post about 'window shopping' for chickens was funny.  Well, I did it again.  We all loved the Barnevelder.
 And I was intrigued by the Sicilian.
 And the Cochin Calico was way more pretty than the camera could capture.
But my favorite had to be this "Frazzle".  The lady told me it's a result of crossing two Frizzles.  I don't know if that's the truth, but I do know that I need one someday!  Us curly girls have to stick together!

This Brahma rooster was GORGEOUS but he absolutely didn't want his picture taken.  Notice the "I Bite" sign!!!

And, of course, I swooned over the Speckled Sussex.  I cannot explain the attraction, but I am in love with the looks of them!
Stephen really liked the looks of this Ameraucana, but it was going crazy pacing back and forth in the cage and I couldn't get a good picture.  I do love our Blue Wheaten Ameraucana, so I can totally see us getting more when we are able to settle down.
 There were lots of adorable animals in the Petting Zoo, too.

But other than that, and a lot of food vendors and carnival stuff, there wasn't a lot going on.  I wish we'd arrived at a better time so we could have seen the circus and some shows, but we weren't about to stick around for another 2 hours.  Joe Nichols was the headliner for tonight, so if I was young and single I totally would have wanted to see that... and if we were 'locals' who could count on running into people we only see once a year at the Fair, it would be a different story.  But next year we'll skip this one and may be try the State Fair. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

I'm Off!

I'm leaving bright and early in the morning for the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello.  I've been looking forward to this every since I got home from last year's!  I promise I'll be taking good notes and sharing lots of great info when I return.  In the mean time, here's my latest post for Mother Earth News.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Seed Saving: Lemon Balm

Did you happen to notice the new 'search this blog' box on the right hand side?  It's new.  I put it there because my neighbor Lisa complained I didn't have one.  It was too much work to google "Homesteading on the Homefront" + whatever it was she was searching for.  I was all proud of myself this morning when I told her I'd added it just for her.  She quickly burst my bubble by saying "Lately it's all about chickens and bees.  I can't do anything with chickens and bees."


Cue the Lemon Balm.

Lemon Balm is a great herb that I grow (and Lisa grows) to use in a medicinal salve along with Calendula.  Lemon Balm is also an herb that can spread really fast.  Unless, of course, you harvest the seeds to share.  This will greatly reduce spreading, but not prevent it entirely.

I'm heading up to the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello on Friday, and part of my preparations include getting ready for the Old Time Seed Swap on Saturday.  I figured I'd harvest the seeds from my two lemon balm plants.  Except I could find NOTHING online about the best (er, 'easiest') way to do it. So this is the method I came up with and I'm pretty happy with it.

About this time of year, the plants will bolt and the seed pods will dry up and turn these beautiful plants into eyesores.
 Harvest the dead looking stalks.  I filled a bag with only two plants' worth.
Squeezing each stem, run your fingers down the length of it to remove the foliage.
The teeny-tiny black things you see almost in the center of this picture are the seeds. 
I placed a fine-mesh screen over a large container and gently sifted.  You can see hoe the seeds separate and fall into the container.
 There was still a good bit of foliage in with the seeds, so I decided to sift it again.
As you can see, it did a pretty decent job of sifting.  With such small seeds, you're never going to get everything out, so I consider this good enough!
One source I read stated that the shelf-life of lemon balm seeds can range from years up to decades depending, of course, on how they are stored.  These will be placed in labeled bags to make it easier for swapping.
I plan to use a similar method to save other small seeds... like horehound and anise hyssop. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Homesteading Goals, Revisited

Last January, I made a list of 5 Homesteading Goals for 2013.  Since the kids will be going back to school tomorrow and I am about to have more time to myself, I decided to revisit those goals, see how it's going, and tackle the ones that I've yet to master.

Here's how it's going:

1.  Chickens!  - CHECK!  The chicken tractor was built, pullets were acquired, one was re-homed when 'she' started crowing, one was nursed back to health after a burst abscess, two more were added to the flock.  This goal has been met, and I have loved every minute of it.  I seriously cannot imagine ever not having chickens again.

2.  Food Preservation:  - CHECK!  I have been much better this year about preserving foods my family will eat.  I made less jam, canned more meat and veggies, dehydrated more fruits.  I do want to try my hand at home-canned tuna, so that's in the works.  I am continuing to keep records of how much I have put up, as it was such a help to have that information from last year.

3.  The Garden:  -  Work in progress.  I was very happy with our spring garden.  But the summer garden is another story.  My peppers are just now starting to produce.  The volunteer tomatoes were so blighted I pulled them up.  I am now working on the fall garden, and my green beans, peas, carrots, and kale are coming along nicely.  The lettuce hasn't sprouted yet, so I'll have to redo that.  I've also decided that instead of the woodchips for mulch, I'm going to try using leaves... but I can't do that until they start to fall.  In addition, I want to get the chickens in the garden.  I just have to figure out how to make that happen.

4.  Meal Planning:  - This is what I need to concentrate on.  Earlier in the summer, I made a list of all the meals we enjoy that didn't require the oven.  That worked well.  Now that I can visit the Farmer's Market and grocery stores without kids in tow, I need to start weekly planning.

5.  Learn something new.  -  We learned how to harvest our honey, and I've learned how to crochet scrubbies.  I haven't done much with the homemade cheeses like I wanted to, but I did learn how to make penny rugs. 

So, it looks like I'll be concentrating on meal planning and the garden in order to reach this year's goals.  Overall, not shabby progress.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Chicken Dreams

One of the reasons I've been so absent lately is that I spent some time back home in New England.  A trip in late-summer meant we were able to attend one of the local fairs, through which we ate ourselves silly.

But it also meant strolls through the animal barns.  In addition to some gorgeous cows and sweet sheep and huge pigs, we particularly enjoyed the chickens.  It was a chance to see some breeds up close and personal, and add them to our mental list of 'someday chickens'.

The Speckled Sussex is at the top of mine, and has been since the spring when I saw them at a friend's farm.  They are a beautiful heritage breed that originated in England (of course!) and came to the states in the early 1900s.
This was a HUGE Colombian Wyandotte.  I am hoping our Windy doesn't grow so large, but she's going to be a looker, that's for sure.
This one was a Blue Orpington.  Truth be told, I couldn't tell the difference between this chicken and our Rosie, who is a Lavender Orp.  Again, I am hoping Rosie doesn't get quite so big!  We might have to add more roosting space if she does.
And I couldn't resist taking a picture of this gorgeous boy.  What a stud!